When Abraham Bronson
came to Vermont in 1802, he found the Episcopal Church almost
extinct. Had it not been for the persistent loyalty and
religious efforts of the illustrious Jehiel Hawley, who laid the
foundations of the church in the hearts of the people by
assembling them for worship in his home Sunday after Sunday for
upwards of twenty years, the Rev. Abraham Bronson might have
passed from Arlington to some other field to begin his
Some day, it is our hope that a monument may be erected in the
Arlington Churchyard to bear a lasting honor to the memory of
these churchmen and pioneers who blazed the trail for the
establishment and growth of the Episcopal Church in Arlington.
It was largely due to the foresight and activity of the Rev.
Abraham Bronson, it should also be remembered, that in 1811 the
Eastern Diocese was formed, and that Bishop Griswold was called
to Episcopal oversight of the infant church in Vermont. This may
seem an unimportant phase of that early period to those who have
been nurtured in non-Episcopal churches, but the connecting link
between our mother, the Church of England and the Episcopal
Church in America is its government by Bishops, and the
permanency of its existence here in America depends upon this
form of government in every diocese. For this reason, in
preparing this history of the parish, it has seemed fitting to
knit together the growth and activities of the parish with the
Episcopate as the center.
The Bishops have been the instruments of its spiritual growth,
for to them alone is committed the authority to impart the
laying-on-of hands in confirmation. To them the parish has
looked for counsel and inspiration, and they have been "the
court of appeal" to whom have been committed questions of
discipline and parochial differences.
St. Jamesí Parish has lived in the midst of the turbulent as
well as the peaceful on-goings of time in the community and the
nation. It has witnessed in the lives of its devoted
parishioners many times of depression, and periods of hardship;
its people in the early days had few of the comforts and
conveniences of modern life.
The stagecoach and horse and buggy period seems like an echo of
the distant past to us who have inherited the comforts of travel
in automobiles, buses, railroads, and airplanes.
Our forefathers lived without the constant touch with the
affairs of the world through the telephone and the radio.
Yet their story is a revelation of indomitable courage and
thrift, as it comes to us through the meager records that have
been handed down to us. In the common round of their community
and church life, they had their times of friction; they were
beset with the same weaknesses and petty jealousies that are
common in all communities without respect of time. But their
simplicity of life had its great advantages; they looked to the
church as their teacher, it was the center of the interest of
Through the years the parish has been the background for the
development of social and religious welfare. Here have been
fostered the refinements of life.
The church building as it stands now with its commanding and
inspiring presence is the embodiment, the fruit of the struggles
and sacrifices of the past. It testifies to the worth of the
systematic teaching of the faith of our fathers, given through
the diligent ministry of pastors and teachers, and through the
quiet influence and example of many fathers and mothers of
sturdy character and unswerving integrity.
The diocese and the parish have within a few years entered upon
new and efficient leadership.
At a special convention of the diocese held at St. Paulís
Church, Burlington, on July thirtieth, 1935, to elect a
successor to the late Bishop Samuel Babcock Booth, DD., the
choice of the diocese resulted in the election of the Rev. J. W.
Sutton, DD. vicar of Trinity Chapel, New York.
Unfortunately, as it then seemed, after a delay of several
months, the Rev. Dr. Sutton declined the election.
In the meantime the diocese without a leader was becoming
discouraged or disheartened, and the importance of the speedy
election of a Bishop keenly recognized.
Another special convention of the Diocese was held at Trinity
Church, Rutland on November twelfth, 1935, and, on assembling,
the Rev. Vedder Van Dyck became the choice of the convention. He
was consecrated at St. Paul's Church, Burlington on St.
Matthiasí Day, February twenty-fourth - 1936.
The Rt. Rev. Vedder Van Dyck, DD., is the fifth Bishop of the
Diocese of Vermont. He, like the late Coadjutor Bishop Bliss,
was Rector of St. Paul's Church, Burlington, where he had
successfully ministered for five years.
While Rector, he
showed unusual capacities as a preacher and an administrator,
having served on the Executive Council and on the Diocesan
Committee of Finance.
In his wider field as
Bishop, he has become familiar with the special problems of the
diocese and has shown peculiar versatility in helping to solve
The diocese has been facing the problem, since the death of
Bishop Booth, of how to finance the up-keep of the two
buildings, the Vermont Episcopal Institute and Bishop Hopkins
Sad as it seemed to allow the Vermont Episcopal Institute to
deteriorate through lack of repairs, yet since funds are at
present insufficient to adequately maintain both buildings, the
Bishop decided that for the pressing needs of the School for
Girls, Bishop Hopkins Hall should be maintained, and that the
resources of the diocese should be used so far as possible in
the repairs and improvement of the property so that the building
may become a permanent educational institution.
Through his planning and financial management, not sparing his
own physical labor in the use of the paint brush and carpenterís
tools, the Bishop has succeeded in the renovation and repairs of
Bishop Hopkins Hall so that it now shows the fruit of his
initiative in improved heating and plumbing equipment, and in
the decoration of the interior of the building.
Bishop Van Dyck has given himself unsparingly to the many
problems, financial, educational and spiritual, of the diocese,
spending much time in counsel with Rectors and parishes when
needed; he has ministered often in the Chapel of the School for
Girls, where he also teaches, and in vacant parishes and
missions in addition to his regular parish visitations, seeking
in his preaching and in spiritual counsels to awaken the
congregations of the diocese to the vital need of more loyalty
to the standards of the Church, and to attendance at its
worship, also laboring to strengthen the morale of the people by
appealing to them to realize the necessity of turning their
hearts and minds and wills toward God and religion in this time
The Rev. Philip T. Fifer entered upon the rectorship of St.
Jamesí Church on the first Sunday in May 1939.
Mr. Fifer is a native of Philadelphia, and was prepared for the
priesthood at the Philadelphia Divinity School.
He was ordained
Deacon June first, 1931, from St. Peterís Parish, Glenside, near
Philadelphia, and to the Priesthood March twelfth, 1932.
His ministry began as Vicar of an old colonial Parish, St.
Jamesí, Perkiomen, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, on June
first, 1931, where he remained until November thirtieth, 1935,
when he became Vicar of the Church of the Advent, Baltimore,
Maryland. After a ministry of over three years there he was
called to become Rector of St. Jamesí, Arlington.
The item of chief
interest in Mr. Fiferís first two years as Rector of St. Jamesí
is the attempt to place religious education on a really adequate
level of efficiency.
It seemed to him, as
to many others in various places and churches, that the
nineteenth century Sunday School was not and could not live up
to the hopes entertained for it in the days of its founding.
The Church can never
afford to forget the affectionate and generous devotion of
countless lay-women and lay-men who have staffed the parochial
Sunday Schools for the past hundred years, and yet, for all
that, in his view, the children of the Church were not being
adequately grounded in the Christian Faith and Christian living.
To Mr. Fifer, as well as to other like-minded educators
elsewhere, there seemed to be two ways in which to deal with the
In the first place, aside from any question of when or where the
children were to be instructed, the new plan assumed that the
priest himself would do the teaching.
Secondly, where possible, the instruction would be given in
connection with secular education, preferably in the same
building, and on school time.
As the plan worked out in Arlington the children of grammar
school age were brought to the Rectorís Study on Saturday
mornings, coming at one of three different hours according to
This arrangement has been in effect for two full years now, and
in the Rectorís judgment has thoroughly fulfilled its purpose.
In regard to the other element of the revised scheme of
education, no more than a beginning has been made, but there is
hope for development. Upon the suggestion of the local Roman
Catholic priest, and at the request of the parents, the school
authorities devised a plan for religious classes to be taught in
the Senior and Junior High Schools by the several clergymen.
This was most happily put into effect in the latter part of the
1939-1940 school years. However, its necessity was not fully
enough grasped by the powers that be in the school system.
On this account, in the reorganization attendant upon the
burning down of the schoolhouse in November 1940, religion was
temporarily dropped out of the curriculum.
The principal has
declared his intention of reestablishing religious instruction
when the school is again housed in adequate quarters, and it is
Mr. Fiferís hope that the school and community will then be able
to see that religion is not a peripheral subject, but one of the
fundamental four Rís.
It should be borne in
mind, Mr. Fifer says, that this attempt to repair the disastrous
divorce between religion and secular learning is not peculiar to
Arlington, but is commending itself to countless communities in
this country and abroad.
Nearly thirty towns
in Vermont alone have embarked upon similar projects.
Mr. Fifer is a
musician and he says that before coming to Arlington he had
given much thought to the matter of Church music. To his great
and oft-expressed delight he found at hand, in the person of
Mrs. Harry Grout, the choir director, both the desire and the
ability to bring the parish music into line with the standards
that are approved by many students of Church music.
The last century has
seen a renewed emphasis both upon worship and the several
appurtenances thereof, including music. However, Mr. Fifer says,
as might have been expected, desire for improvement outran the
facilities at hand, and it was characteristic of most church
music to suffer from being overly ambitious.
Mr. Fifer feels that
the problem has been met in a splendid way in Vermont on a
diocesan basis, by the provision of annual training conferences
and choir festivals.
Arlington began to
cooperate in these ventures in the time of Mr. Fiferís
predecessor, and has now come to such a level of attainment that
the Bishop himself has called attention to it.
In March of 1941 the
Chancel was strikingly enriched by the addition of a Tabernacle
and Sanctuary Lamp.
They were given by
the Leake and Jackson families in memory of their parents,
Richard Bryan Leake and Annie Nichols Leake, and in memory of
Mrs. Roland Jackson, daughter of Richard and Annie Leake and of
her son Richard.
These gifts had been
accepted by the Vestry with the consent and at the request of
In the unavoidable
absence of the Bishop the Rector blessed the gifts and put them
The Rev. Mr. Fifer is
blessed with a wife whose devotion to her family, her Church and
the people of the parish have earned for her the esteem of the
people, and four children, one boy and three girls, whose
wholesome child life adds charm to the Rectory household.
It remains for the
author to assure his readers that the labor spent in gathering
the materials for the history of this parish has been more than
doubly repaid in the rich experience that has come to him in
discovering with what courage, perseverance and faith the
forefathers of St. Jamesí, both men and women, from year to
year, shouldered their burdens, seeking loyally to bear their
witness to the faith they loved and to carry on their worship
As one reflects on
the story of the past of our parish one is reminded of the words
of the Psalmist: "The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground;
yea, I have a goodly heritage."
No more difficult
days in church or state are on record than that period of
reconstruction after the war of the Revolution. We cannot tell
against what suspicion and hostility our spiritual fathers, many
of them bred of Loyalist stock, struggled on to preserve the
Anglican faith, and to keep the sparks of life in the then
infant parish from going out.
"May they rest in
peace; and may light perpetual shine upon them.
We, too, in this day,
have a heritage not simply to boast of, but to preserve.
We are living in days
of glorious opportunity, opportunity to show our faith in God,
even when foes threaten and alarm. May we, with our eyes on the
Cross, never falter!
"Godís truth abidcth
still, His Kingdom is forever."
Note - The last
diocesan Journal (1940) gives the following numerical and
financial status of the parish:
People Ė Families -
76; Baptized members - 239; Communicants - 113; Baptisms
(children) - 10; Confirmations - 11; Marriages - 2; Burials Ė
11; Church school, officers and teachers - 2; Scholars - 46.
Receipts: For parish
support - $2,796.85; For special parochial purposes - $467.29;
For extra - parochial purposes - $450.13; Capital account -
$236.53; Total receipts - $4,458.10.
current expenses - $2,347.88; For special parochial purposes -
$829.19; For extra - parochial purposes - $450.13;
Capital Account -
$171.84; Total disbursements - $4,008.76.
first 1940 - $449.32.
Church - $25,000; Rectory - $6,000; Land - $2.000: Furniture -
$3,000; Endowments - $18,807; Total - $54,807;
Insurance - $28,000
Indebtedness - None.
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